September 3, 2011

Workouts: August

August has been my least active month so far, and I intend for it to be the only one of its kind. I started off strong, but then essentially dropped to zero activity when I found out that I got the job in California. There's an entire week in my log of blank spaces!

Some of the days off were excuseable - I had two days to pack everything I could into a pickup truck, and then we had to drive for three days straight. There was unpacking to do once we got here, then errands to run as I started to set up my life for myself. The exercise routines I was in back in Chicago were great, but this is certainly not Chicago and I needed to figure out what my new routines would be.

As for the Chicago half of my month, I ran 24.7 miles - including an 8 and a 9 mile run as I prepared for next week's half marathon that I will not be running anymore. I used the Wii Fit once, for 41 minutes, and burned 217 calories. And I used the elliptical four times, for a total of 3300 calories burned.

In California, I ran just under 8 miles - a 3 mile run on the streets, a 1.5 mile run on the complex's lousy treadmill, and then the 3.4 mile 5k. I biked an awful lot - 92.5 miles, which is a lot considering I got my bike on the 26th. I had done 1.5 miles on the complex's lousy stationary bike (it's just a lousy little gym all around), then biked at least 10 miles everyday after getting my own bike.

As far as September, I'm not sure what my exercise goals are.
  • My complex has a couple of pools, but I'm mostly using them to float and cool off (I'm still not quite sure how to properly swim and don't want to risk another injury like the beginning of July).
  • I don't have a TV just yet and likely won't have one until I get paid in October, so Wii Fit is out of the question.
  • I'd like to get back into running more, but I don't have any distance or speed goals. I've researched half marathons in California, and there are tons between now and the end of the year, so a half in 2011 is not completely off the table. I just don't have anything scheduled yet.
  • I will be biking at least 40 miles a week, since my commute to work is 5 miles each way. That doesn't even count exploring or running errands!
Which brings me to my favorite calorie burner - the elliptical. Or at least, my former favorite - I'm really loving biking these days. I thought about joining the university gym like I did back in Chicago, but even though the facility is great and the cost is the same as the one I used to use, the university is *very* small and I'd see my students there, for sure. Not that it's a big issue, but I'd rather not see them in that environment if I can help it. At my old school, there were two gyms, and I used the smaller one on the other part of the campus to avoid any run-ins. So, I'm faced with a choice: should I join an off-campus gym? And right now, I'm leaning towards no.

Hear me out.

As I start preparing myself for maintenance, I'm doing a lot of thought about my eating and exercise habits. I love working out on the machines at the gym because I see great weight loss results, but when the goal isn't huge losses, I won't need to spend as much time there. I'm trying to focus on running and biking for my losses now, and as I approach maintenance, my goal is simply to maintain a healthy level of activity, but eventually increase my calories to a point where I will balance my in-and-out calories and therefore maintain my weight.

There *is* a gym right down the street from me - a woman I met at the 5k race was telling me that she does BodyPump and BodyFlow and all those types of classes there - so it's always an option. But for now, I'm going to give this a try and see how it works.

What about you? How was your August? What are your goals for September? For maintainers: please feel free to critique my shift-in-exercise-goals plan - I think it will be a good fit for me long-term, but I always appreciate your thoughts and advice!

September 2, 2011

Roses and thorns

My last official weigh in when I was in Chicago had me at 192 pounds.

My lowest weight after that was 189, after two days of sobbing and being too upset and nervous to eat.

The appetite came back, and I fed it with junk. I said I wouldn't binge, but I did. Big time. (I'm going to be writing about it next week.) And the day I left Chicago, I was at 194 pounds.

I had great intentions for the road trip, but fell off track incredibly. And the first week in California was full of stress, anxiety, restaurants, and really terrible off-plan decisions. I was back to old habits almost entirely - eating huge portions of foods I haven't touched in months, drinking soda, and pretty much no physical activity. After the move, I tried running, but could only do 3 miles at best, and it was discouraging; according to my half marathon training schedule - I'm supposed to be doing double-digit distances at this point.

Last Friday, I weighed in at 199, and I knew something had to give. It wasn't over 200 pounds, but it may as well have been - I could no longer say I had lost over 150 pounds, and with that, I realized how easy it would be to regain everything.

Last Thursday, I got my home internet connected, and started tracking on MyFitnessPal again. Last Friday, I got a bike and started riding everywhere - at least ten miles a day (that's my daily commute), usually more since I've been exploring the city. Last Saturday, I ran in my first organized race since the Bastille Day 8k. Didn't set any personal records, I'm sure - but I finished, and it felt great.

And today, I'm weighing in at 194. I'm back on track and it feels fantastic. I've got my second wind, and I'm ready to get back to work on looking and feeling my best. I feel healthy again, and that's so incredibly important.

I don't teach Fridays, so with Labor Day on Monday, I'm facing a four day weekend. I wish I could go back to Chicago for the weekend, but money will be tight this first month until I get paid. So, I'll be writing letters, finally finishing with my unpacking, biking for sure, and attempting to run again. It may be a while before I get back to my old distances, but I'm okay with that - I just miss running!

What about you? What are your plans for the weekend, whether it's a long one or not?

September 1, 2011

The prairie, part two

The hardest part of the interview was knowing the entire time that I had the job. They said they had more people to interview and I'd hear later that day or early the next morning, but regardless of when, I knew what their response would be. The job was perfect for me; everything I have done professionally up to this point would help me succeed in the position. Still, anticipating the results had me a nervous wreck. Couldn't eat, couldn't sit still. So I went for a walk.

I started walking down the street and just kept going until I had some idea of where I'd like to end up. I usually walk pretty quickly, but this wasn't about fitness. This was a slow stroll, trying to figure out what I should do next. As I crossed one of my favorite scenic bridges over the highway and some train tracks, it came to me.

I'm going to ask Bobby to marry me.

I never felt so sure of anything, and decided to go to a thrift store and see if I could find some small placeholder ring for until we could get proper ones. But first, I had to walk to a nearby library branch - there was a movie waiting for me that I had requested ("The Purple Rose of Cairo," if you believe in fate).

Walking down the streets in Little Italy, I compulsively checked my email on my phone every ten or fifteen minutes. Finally, there it was. Fall 2011 Lecturer Offer for [University] - French. I was excited - for the job and the idea of a whole new life somewhere else, but also, because I was going to be incredibly impulsive and uncharacteristically spontaneous and ask Bobby to go with me as my partner.

I immediately texted him and asked if we could get together the next day, as early as possible. Of course, he said, and we set up a time. Then I asked how his day was.

Work was tiring, but it's over. Now just nervous about the events.

I'm nervous too. But we'll work through this, we'll figure it out.

We will.

And as I fell asleep that night, I thought about how I'd say it. No tears - unless they were happy ones. No dropping to one knee - it didn't feel right for us, plus I never found a ring. It would just be raw, honest thought.

Yes, this is very much a whirlwind romance. But come with me, we'll start a life together in a new place and get to know each other a little every day for the rest of forever...

I woke up, raced out to the suburbs, and practically jumped off the train and into his arms when the train pulled into the station. A big hug and a kiss, then we got into his car.

I was thinking we'd go for a walk in this prairie near here.

Sounded good to me, and we were off.

At this point in the story, I'd like to mention that as I've tried exploring relationships since starting to live healthier, one of the qualities I've sought has been an interest in sharing healthy activities. Jon had lost over 150 pounds after a gastric bypass surgery, but rarely worked out and ate garbage still and was okay with his losses slowing to one pound a month. Matt said he had lost about 30 pounds from working out and eating better but had conveniently slipped into a plateau right before we met, and our dates quickly got to the routine of listen to music, have sex, and then go out to eat. But Bobby hadn't lost any weight, though he certainly wanted to; it felt so good to finally meet a guy who was genuine in saying that he, too, wanted to go on active dates and that cooking healthy meals together was a very intimate experience.

And so, we arrived at the prairie. It was sunny and perfect, and we held hands as we walked almost silently along the dirt paths. There were so many thoughts, but none being expressed; he kept rubbing his fingers nervously over mine, and as he did this, I just held his hands a little tighter. There was nothing to be afraid of in this moment - to borrow the idea from one of my absolute favorite blog comments, we were standing on the edge of great things.

The sun rose higher in the sky and it got warmer and warmer. The trees were few and far between, but with each one, we'd stop, he'd hold me close, and we'd kiss. There were other walkers, runners, and cyclists on the path, so the stops were brief but intimate. Finally, we reached the end of the path, and looped back around towards the car.

My stomach felt heavy with nervousness as we retraced our steps and finally, we got to an underpass tunnel connecting one part of the park to the other. We stopped, and there was an exceptionally passionate kiss. He had his arms around me, and I had my arms on top of his. I lightly tapped my fingers on his biceps.

Are you counting?

Sort of. Counting down. Building up the strength to say what I need to say.

An exceptionally deep inhale, and tumbling out with the breath came the words I had rehearsed over and over for nearly twenty-four hours, as well as a deluge of tears.

I got the job...

He frowned and bit his lip, and I continued.

... and I want you to come with me.

It was one of those don't-think-just-say-it moments, and at the last minute, I decided not to propose marriage, but just relocation. Deciding to marry is not to be taken lightly - in spite of the statistics, I still believe in the idea of forever - and cross-country relocation would be a big enough change. Asking someone I'm on my fourth date with to move in with me would be huge; in that instant, that serious of a proposal didn't feel as right.

He smiled and looked at me with tears in his eyes, and I was as sure of his answer as I had been about the one from my new employers.

The thing is...

My tears fell faster, and he continued.

No, I'm not saying no. It's just, I've got so much stuff going on right now.

Which is true. He just came back in June from nearly a year of teaching in Korea and was a week and a half away from starting pre-pharmacy classes.

I already looked into it. There's a community college in the town we'd be moving to, you can take classes there. You can withdraw from school here...

And - I'd want to be able to support myself out there.

But I'm going to be making more than twice what I made at the University of Illinois. I can take care of us until you find work out there. Don't worry about that, we'll just make it work. I ... I just want to be with you.

That day, in the shade of the overpass, we made each other promises for the future. We'll keep in touch, we'll try this thing long distance, we'll see each other as often as we possibly can. This is something that feels bigger than we even realize, and this is something worth pursuing no matter what.

We went for frozen yogurt, and I spent most of the rest of our time together crying uncontrollably. Not just for Bobby, but for everything I was about to lose and gain. For everything this past year, to be honest. I don't do change well, and for the past thirteen months, pretty much nothing has been consistent. I was moving to a new job, in a state I'd never even visited, and I'd meet people who have no idea who I am or how I used to be. It was scary and incredibly overwhelming, and my tears were full of over a year's grief.

Needless to say, a 2161 mile drive in a pickup truck feels infinitely longer when your heart is heavy and you're hoping you've been making the right decisions.

August 31, 2011

The prairie, part one

He had his arms around me, and I had my arms on top of his. I lightly tapped my fingers on his biceps.

Are you counting?

Sort of. Counting down. Building up the strength to say what I need to say.

An exceptionally deep inhale, and tumbling out with the breath came the words I had rehearsed over and over for nearly twenty-four hours, as well as a deluge of tears.

I got the job...

He frowned and bit his lip, and I continued.

... and I want you to come with me.

Clearly I need to backtrack a bit.

On July 2, Matt and I went on a date to the library. We picked out a few CDs, then went back to his place to listen to them and have sex. A pretty standard date for us, it was also one of the first times when I started to doubt his committment, and I left feeling confused and unsure.

So, on July 3, as I continued to apply for jobs, I applied to one in New York, one in New Jersey, and one in California. I decided that nothing was keeping me in Chicago.

On July 24, enough finally became enough, and I broke up with Matt. I cried for the better part of the day, grieving the loss of something I had hoped so dearly would turn out to be a good thing.

So, on July 25, I reactivated my online dating profile. I had only been seeing Matt for about six weeks, and I decided that one day was long enough to let the kid make me feel lousy. I thought my footing was secure but it wasn't, and I fell; I needed to get right back on the horse, so to speak.

Interestingly enough, on that very same day, I got a message from a boy. He fit pretty much none of my criteria - the biggest deals being that he was younger than me (freshly 23 to my nearly-done-with 24) and lived out in the Chicago suburbs (tough when I don't drive) - but I decided to message him back anyway because he looked cute and the site said we were a 95% match. (To put that into comparison, Jon and I were 72% and Matt and I were 78%). His name was Bobby, and he looked kind of like Seth Rogen.

One little message turned into two. Then three. Five. A dozen. After two weeks, we'd sent each other over three dozen emails - substantial ones, we're talking pages and pages. And there was no end in sight - the conversations were never slow, but he was also not pushing a physical meetup. Which is strange, really, because with online dating, most guys send one or two messages and then move things offline. Finally, I made the move and asked him to hang out.

We met downtown at the train station, and despite my excitement and the anticipatory butterflies in my stomach, it was not love at first sight. I don't know what it was, but I didn't feel the connection we'd had online. We walked down to Millennium Park and heard an orchestra rehearse for the next night's concert, then walked to another part of the park and played Would You Rather? to get to know each other a little better. We also used the Truth or Dare app on his phone, truths only. I had a good night, but left him at the train station feeling really unsure about what would happen next. Part of my confusion, I think, came from the fact that we hung out for nearly eight hours and he didn't try any funny business - we left at the station with a hug, and it was the first physical contact all day. I'm just not used to nice guys, I guess.

We had discussed my visiting the suburbs two days later, a day when I also had plans with a former student of mine. This student is someone I've promised blog posts about in the past - I had a bit of a crush on him over the course of the second semester of last year, and he and I got very close since the end of school. He's actually why I started thinking about Richard again, because I see a lot of Richard in Mike - he's cute, funny, and inappropriate, and my feelings are unrequited. I got back in touch with Richard and explained about Mike, about wanting to make sure I didn't throw away a great friendship just because the relationship might not turn out to be exactly what I wanted it to be.

I was torn. Mike asked me to cook with him at his apartment, but Bobby asked me to take the commuter rail out to the suburbs with no real plans besides "hang out." I ended up choosing the latter, and am endlessly glad I did.

When my train got to the station, I saw him waiting on the platform, and it was still a very confusing and uncertain feeling. As we spent the day listening to music and talking, though, something changed. I can't pinpoint the moment, but that day I felt more comfortable and happier than I had in a very long time. We watched a movie, then went downtown - there's a long walking path along a river through his town, and we strolled along it, chatting as I took in the scenery.

And there was a kiss. As far as first kisses go, it was remarkable. He first took my hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing it very softly. I giggled a little, unsure of what to make of it.

Is something funny?

No, this is just really cute.

Okay, good. Get used to things like this.

Then he kissed my cheek, right along the jawbone. Pulled back, looked at me, and then - a real kiss. It was the magical, fireworks kind of kiss I always saw in movies and hoped would actually be real for me someday.

That was August 11.

On August 12, I got an email from the coordinator of the foreign language program at a university in California - the one I had applied to after my lousy date with Matt. If I still was interested in the position, they wanted to schedule an interview as soon as possible. I said yes, of course, and the interview was set for Monday.

I told Bobby, and he very calmly said we'd figure out what to do after the interview. He came to the city two days after the email (the day before the interview), and we had a pretty fantastic day of movie watching, healthy cooking, and making out like crazy. It was perfect, in the sense that kissing was the only expectation for the day. These were little kisses stolen during breaks in the movies, soft touches without harmful intent. It didn't feel like with other guys, when they kiss you and you can tell they're just passing time until they can go further and get what they really want.

Later that night, as I walked him back to the commuter rail station, we held hands and both bit our lips as we waited for the train to arrive. I let out a very deep exhale, and he did too. I asked him about it.

What are you thinking?

Nothing, just feeling uneasy. [silence] About the same thing you're uneasy about.

And I started to bawl. And he started to cry. And we held each other on the train platform, and I told him

This is so shitty. I just found you, and now I might lose you.

No, you won't. Keep smiling, and do well on your interview, and then we'll see what happens next.

This is turning out to be a longer post than I thought ... part two tomorrow, the dramatic conclusion. The interview, the prairie, the proposal.

August 30, 2011

Nebraska, Iowa

The final day of pictures from the scenic 2100+ mile road trip from Chicago to my new city in California. This is most of the first day, Nebraska and then Iowa if we discuss them in reverse. Enjoy!

Farms in Nebraska.

Farms, farms, farms. And when you get tired, there are more farms.

My apologies to readers in Nebraska, but your state is flat and there is not much to see ... at least from I-80. Argue your case and maybe I'll be back. The waitress at lunch said there was an ice cream shop in Omaha that made baklava ice cream, the thought of which intrigued me greatly - so I'm hoping to avoid Omaha.

The wind turbines in Iowa were really neat - the coolest thing was when we were driving and a few trucks passed by carrying the fan blades. They were huge!

The only other gray skies we saw besides the ten seconds of gray in Utah - and this was just as brief. We got seriously lucky, weather-wise.

We also drove through most of Illinois to get from Chicago to Iowa, but I didn't take any pictures, besides one of the GPS saying we had 2161 miles to go from my uncle's house in the Chicago suburbs (where we spent the night after getting rid of my bed and couch but before leaving) and my new apartment in California.

Tomorrow: the return of actual writing, with an account of my last days in Chicago. Spoiler alert: a boy and a girl, holding hands in a prairie ... and a proposal of sorts.

August 29, 2011

BTH: Week Nine

My positive picture for the week:

I totally skipped BTH last week since I didn't have home internet yet - so this week, you get two pictures!

After running the 5k on Saturday morning - which actually ended up being "about 3.4 miles."

It was very much a small town event sponsored by a local church. We started with a prayer and ended with a pancake breakfast. (Dad had some. I had half a banana.) It was untimed, so I have no idea how I did. And I'm fine with that - it just felt good to run with a group!

Second picture, me about to accomplish 101-in-1001 goal #43:

I rode a bike! I got a glorious black bike from a local bike shop and have been riding it all over town, exploring. Round trips from my apartment to the university, quick errands to Target, all over the local bike paths ... I forgot how much I love biking. I loved the recumbent bikes at the gym, but this is something altogether better - it's like the first time I ran on the streets after training on treadmills. It feels so good to actually propel myself forward!

What have you achieved towards your goals this week?

Again, playing catch-up from last week: goal #7 was "stop being busy." Stanier's explanation of this is as follows:
Being busy is seductive. Just because you're going flat out doesn't mean you're on the right track. If it's the wrong hole, you need to stop digging.
I guess you can say I spent all of last week being the right kind of busy - filling my days with useful activities, not just trying to pass time. I wish I had exercised more, but with moving and getting settled in California, I'm just now getting back into my healthy active routines.

For this week (and continuing to next week for the challenge end), I'm working on goal #8: start something. Stanier's explanation of this is as follows:
Don't wait any longer for permission to do what you want to do. There are always reasons to procrastinate just a little longer. Enough! Just start!
Being all alone in a new place is incredibly scary and daunting - and a perfect tabula rasa opportunity to start doing and being exactly what and who I want.

What have you done to make yourself feel fabulous?

My new apartment has a bathtub! My Chicago apartment had a shower stall, which is tough when all you want to do is come home, relax, and soak in the tub. So I definitely took a bubble bath the other night, and it was just as dreamy as I had hoped. I've also been making great use of the complex's pool and hot tub - I even met some other people there who work at university! We're all having dinner on Wednesday, I can't wait!

This is week 9 and the final week of the challenge! Is there anything you want to really push to achieve now?

Starting something! Everything I have worked on this summer has built up to this, the creation and beginning of ... something! I just have to figure out what it is, and then make it happen.

How have you felt through the challenge? Has anything been more difficult than you thought? Anything easier?

I'm very pleased with the emotional progress I've made on this challenge - I'm ready to get back to "traditional" challenge goals for the fall, but I'm still very glad I did something unique with my summer.

Where do you fit in your family? Are you a middle child for example? How does that affect your "place" in the family?

My cousin Sarah and I talk a lot about birth order - we're both firstborns and have all the typical firstborn traits. Perfectionists, overachievers, conscientious, with a strong urge to protect and care for the siblings.

August 28, 2011

Utah, Wyoming

Like I mentioned yesterday, I will be sharing pictures from the scenic 2100+ mile road trip from Chicago to my new city in California in reverse. Enjoy!

Salt flats in Utah. I fell asleep through most of Utah, unfortunately, which I blame on a combination of my second day in the car and the delicious hummus and veggies wrap I ate in Salt Lake City while visiting a friend from college.

The Great Salt Lake. I need to go back for a proper visit.

We saw gray skies when we first got to Utah, then the highway veered left and we missed the storms entirely. Nothing but sun the whole ride out!

Tons of rocks like this in Wyoming.

Dad loved these - we even stopped the truck to get a picture.

Sunrise in Wyoming - absolute favorite part of the trip. I have about a dozen pictures of it. Incredibly gorgeous, so colorful!

Tomorrow: Beat The Heat. Stay tuned for Nebraska and Iowa on Tuesday!